After years of speculation, the retail world is bracing for an expected launch of Amazon in Australia within the next 48 hours, with local brands predicting the next 12 months will see significant changes to sales strategy as the global giant settles in.
On Tuesday evening Lifehacker obtained an internal email from Amazon’s Australian operations, confirming to sellers a soft launch of the site would happen on Thursday ahead of a formal launch over the weekend to coincide with the Black Friday sales event in the US.
While the brand hasn’t made a formal pitch to shoppers or confirmed the site will be open for business, retail analysts and business owners are predicting the Black Friday launch will set the tone for future online sales events across the country.
The $US4.5 billion ($5.93 billion) Black Friday sales event has had a number of high-profile Australians jump on board in recent years, but this is the first time a competitor with the level of Amazon’s experience will be in the mix.
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Co-founder of Annex Products, Rob Ward, whose Quad Lock phone products go on sale once a year during Black Friday, tells SmartCompany he thinks the arrival of Amazon will change things in the future, but no so much for his business.
Annex Products has already sent out details of its Black Friday offerings to its dedicated customer base, and Ward says they don’t need help from the retail giant to complete one of the biggest retail events of Quad Lock’s year.
“We don’t need Amazon to complete the process, we’ll be selling a lot more through our own website,” he says.
He says the “limiting factor” for Amazon Australia in the lead-up to Christmas is that it will only be offering a limited product base initially, but as this grows he expects more local retailers will start tailoring their online offerings depending on how they choose to use Amazon to sell their products.
For retail companies without broad brand awareness, there will be little choice but to jump on the Amazon Marketplace bandwagon, Ward says.
However, he predicts brands will start making decisions about what they sell through the platform and what they hold back to sell as limited-edition exclusives through their own sites.
“You’ll see a lot of people doing things like, if their main product is ‘X’ is on Amazon, they’ll have another special offer on their own website, another product that they will hold back from [selling on] Amazon,” Ward predicts.
“That kind of thing can help you build a direct relationship with customers, add a new dimension, and I think you’ll see more of that happening.”
Beyond Black Friday sales, retail analysts predict while Amazon’s product rollout may be slow, the next few weeks could set the tone for the future of online retail in Australia.
“Amazon’s entry might be the moment when shopping behaviour in Australia swings decisively towards e-commerce,” Hianyang Chan, senior analyst at Euromonitor International, observes.
Head of e-commerce solutions at product management software business SAP Hybris, Stuart O’Neill, says the biggest takeaway from the retail giant’s imminent launch is the shifting goal-posts for smaller businesses when it comes to service delivery.
“A recent SAP survey revealed clear demand from Australian consumers for high-quality, seamless and personalised experiences across online and physical stores. Whether you’re a global giant like Amazon, or a family-run shop on a suburban street, they will flock to the retailers who deliver on this expectation,” he said this week.
Local retailers be watching both the success of Amazon Marketplace and the performance of its own brand offering over the next few months, with both formats expected to be up-and-running in Australia.
Chan says the focus for local brands in this climate is to set their own strategies and brand identities before the global juggernaut can fully exercise its power.
“It will be vital for retailers to embrace the changing dynamics, step out of their comfort zone and chart their own way forward or risk being left behind.”